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The role of bioengineered textiles in the future of the fashion industry

By: Jessie (Y13)

The fashion industry is an extraordinarily complex, and a particularly important part of today’s modern society. Fashion surrounds us wherever and whoever we are and, consequently, the impacts that the industry has on our environment and society, whether you are on the consumer or production end of the industry, follow us wherever we go. Over time, the production of textiles and garments has drastically increased, and with it so has the disproportionate amount of negative social, economic, and environmental implications.  


A new field of research into sustainable textile alternatives that can reduce the waste produced by the fashion industry has found that biologically engineered textiles could be the way to achieve a waste-free fashion industry. Bio design has emerged from the context of synthetic biology, where the technoscientific discipline aims to customise systems to have a new functionality. Essentially, bio engineering genetically modifies the DNA of microorganisms in order for the material to gain the desired property or function. The idea of this biological modification of organisms came from the discovery of beer.  

There are many different methods of bio engineering, as well as countless aspects of textiles that have the ability to be modified, from natural dyes and elasticity to tensile strength and biodegradability. Protein engineering of fibre polymers has the potential to modify materials to achieve the desired aesthetic, function, or purpose through the use of molecular biomimicry. This process does not include the use of toxic dyes, finishing agents or petrochemical feedstocks, unlike conventional materials common in today’s society, such as in the cultivation of non-organic cotton. Strategic biomimicry is enabled by engineering the protein building blocks of an organism, for example, “binding domains on microbially expressed recombinant proteins”. This means the attachment of specific protein domains have the ability to bind in order to form protein assemblies or complexes. The proteins are engineered by adding regions or domains that can then bind to other specific protein molecules. By introducing the binding domains, scientists and engineers can ensure the proteins will bond with high specificity and affinity, meaning the proteins can facilitate self- assembly, thus creating more complex protein molecular structures which include the desired functionality.   

The increased use of bioengineering textiles would combat consumerist behaviour as we slow and reconnect with the production process and convert back to artisanal production methods. It is so important to understand the value of our clothes, and to buy better quality clothes that will last you longer than anything that is classified as fast fashion.  



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